Below is an opinion article by the minister
of Information, Lai Mohammed on IPOB
and the agitations for secession;“If they fail
to give us Biafra, Somalia will look like a
paradise compared to what will happen to
that ‘zoo’ (Nigeria).” These are the words
of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the so-called
Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
On Sept. 20, the Federal Government of
Nigeria proscribed IPOB as a terrorist
organization. I, as minister of Information
and Culture and the spokesman of the
government, call on our international
partners to do the same.
Whilst there is no internationally agreed
definition of terrorism, many nations’
characterizations closely correlate. Basic to
all of them is this: the calculated threat or
use of violence to further a political,
religious or ideological cause.
Back to Nnamdi Kanu: “I don’t want
peaceful actualization (of Biafra)”; “We
need guns and we need bullets”; “If they
don’t (give us Biafra), they will die.” Public
announcement like these puts IPOB’s
designation beyond doubt in most
jurisdictions: they are a terrorist
organization, as ETA was in Spain, the
Tamil Tigers was in Sri Lanka, and the PKK
is in Turkey (all of whom are proscribed by
the U.S. State Department).
But it is not for the sake of a label we level
this appeal. Currently, streams of cash
come from across the globe to swell the
organization’s stockpile of weapons. Yet
funding of terrorism is illegal in
international law. Only with the group’s
correct categorization will our international
partners be able to halt the financing —
and with it, IPOB’s future.
The threat posed by the organization may
be low. IPOB commands little grass-root
support in the South East (the region it
calls Biafra). All South-East governors have
collectively condemned IPOB’s calls for
secession. And local traditional and
religious leaders have weighed into the
debate, restating that absolute integrity of
Nigeria. Violence, much less terrorism,
never solves grievance. And for that
reason, the overwhelming majority of
residents in the South-East reject IPOB.
They know the ballot box offers the best
mechanism for redress.
In spite of this, the latent threat is high.
Boko Haram similarly had little support in
the North East in 2009. They didn’t need it.
Armed with terror and buoyed by
government inaction, they seized large
swathes of land. Inertia in Abuja lubricated
the group’s advance. But now due to this
government’s actions, Boko Haram hold no
local districts. This administration shall not
make the same mistake as the last. We will
take the rapid, precise and necessary
action required to deal with IPOB now.
The government recognizes in IPOB’s lust
for destruction a trait shared with Boko
Haram. It also appreciates a qualitative
difference in the threat. Unlike Boko
Haram — a regional insurgency — IPOB
breeds insecurity across the whole nation.
In their divisive and inciting rhetoric, they
jeopardize the very social fabric that binds
Nigeria is a multicultural nation. Our
strength lies in our diversity. The Igbo —
the ethnic group that IPOB claim to
represent — live in the South East, as they
do in every zone across Nigeria alongside
Hausa, Ijaw, Fulani, Yoruba and more.
Each district makes up its own rich
tapestry, with ethnicities and religions
intermingling to form unique communities.
IPOB’s public announcements endanger
Igbos that reside outside the South East. In
claiming to speak for the Igbo, they falsely
represent the group. But the public may
sometimes miss this distinction. And whilst
the government has taken all measures to
soothe tensions, rumor still takes hold.
This is a terrorist tactic we have seen
through history across the world. IPOB
intend to drive a wedge between the Igbo
and the rest of Nigeria. Grievance rooted in
discrimination drives their recruitment —
or so they think. They, therefore,
manufacture it through stoking ethnic
tension. This is the aim of IPOB’s rhetoric.
The violence they have sown in the South
East has the same intention. The attacks on
police officers, army stations, local Hausa
groups as well as the establishment of a
national guard and secret service are all
breeding uncertainty in the region. The
timing of the violence is not coincidental:
the Nigerian economy has just broken free
of recession. Yet IPOB must generate
grievance to fuel recruitment. Prosperity
threatens the organization’s existence.
And that is the heart of it: the terror lays
bare their opportunism. They masquerade
as a separatist movement, yet they
endanger the very people they claim to
represent. In reality, IPOB cares about IPOB
and nothing more.
Terrorism is often called the power of the
weak. That IPOB indeed are. But if the last
decade has taught us anything, it is how
quickly the weak can become strong. The
government reiterates its appeal to its
international partners to proscribe the
organization, and in doing so, starve it of
the funds which gives it sustenance.
Nigeria has just defeated one preventable
terrorist insurgency. This one must not be
given the chance to get a foothold.